Season Extension for Market Development and Food Security

Virginia is geographically diverse and uniquely situated to utilize and benefit from season extenders like cold frames, hot beds, cloches, row covers, hoop houses, high tunnels and greenhouses. Enhancing year-round availability and access to healthy nutritious food in Virginia is an important goal of the Virginia Farm to Table Plan for market development and improved food security. For Virginia farmers, market gardeners, and home gardeners to get the most out of their truck patches and gardens, farmers and gardeners can extend the growing season by sheltering their plants from harsh weather and frosts in early spring and the fall. Winter greens, squashes and other cool-weather crops can be harvested and stored all winter by providing the right conditions of shelter, light and insulation.

Tomatoes and peppers under high tunnels in Rockingham County, Virginia.

There are many different techniques for extending the growing season and getting an early start on the market for vegetables like tomatoes, peppers and corn. The economics and energy requirements of season extension techniques always have to be considered. All season extension techniques require inputs of energy and other resources to yield extra production so inputs and costs have to be balanced with expectations. However, with the market demand for fresh locally-grown Virginia foods and farm products and the increase in the number of households that are considered food insecure in Virginia, improving and expanding the use of season extenders will continue to be critical for overall market development and improved food security for Virginia.

Lettuce and cabbage early in the season.

Cornell University. 2012. High Tunnel Resources. Retrieved from http://www.

Cornell University. 2011. Organic Vegetable Production Systems, Season Extension. Retrieved from

North Carolina State University Extension. 2012. Growing Small Farms: Web resources for season extension. Retrieved from

Relf, D. and McDaniel, A. 2009. Season Extenders. Virginia Cooperative Extension publication 426-381.

SARE. 2012. Season Extension Topic Room. Retrieved from

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